Humans of the Wheatbelt - Leonie Knipe

Humans of the Wheatbelt is an initiative by the Wheatbelt Health Network.

Humans of the Wheatbelt is an initiative by the Wheatbelt Health Network.

In my life I have realised that if you start something and it's not the right fit then it's not the end of the world because you can always change direction.When I look back at what I wanted to do when I was younger, it definitely didn't involve living in the country, marrying a farmer, becoming a fitness instructor and finally owning a car dealership. The things in life are never set in concrete and that's just the way of the world.

I have lived in the Wheatbelt most of my life. I was born in the old Northam hospital and grew up in Toodyay where my parents have always lived. My parents had a machinery dealership in Toodyay that they built from the ground up. As far as school goes, I did most of it in Toodyay and then moved to Northam and finished the last two years there at Northam Senior High.

When it was time for University I moved to Perth and during that time met my husband. At the time I was studying a double major in accounting and business law. Growing up I never wanted to stay in the Wheatbelt. I wanted bright shiny lights and a big career. As a young girl in Toodyay, I couldn't see that type of life happening for me. I loved my time in the city.

After completing my degree and having commenced work in the city, I moved back to the country to get married and started to live the farming life. David and I have four beautiful children and coming from a small family I always wanted to have a large one. I wished for big family events like family gatherings and Christmases and that's what I got.

Growing up I was always aware that my dad was very bright but never had the opportunities that I had to study. He was taken out of school and made to work hard, so it was always important to me to use the opportunities that I was given and make something of myself.

I worked for RSM as an accountant and being a catholic family my children attended St Joseph's in Northam and then went on to attend Aquinas College. Having my kids go away to college was tough but I felt it was important for them to understand that the world was bigger than Northam. It gave them a broader understanding of life mixing with country kids from different country towns and indeed different nations.

While I was doing the book work for our farm I joined every committee I could. I joined the kids play-groups, the netball committee, sporting committee's and was the secretary treasurer for the local footy club.

When my youngest was little, I started working for a gym and eventually studied to be a fitness instructor and that became my career for the next five years. I loved it, it was perfect for me at the time as I got to meet and help people, but still be there for my kids. During this time we purchased a motor vehicle dealership. I undertook post graduate studies to learn how to manage a dealership and started to manage Nissan in Northam.

I became the first female Nissan Motor Vehicle Dealer Principal in Western Australia. A couple of years later, I added a Mitsubishi dealership to the business. In 2016, I once again expanded the business, purchasing the Toyota/Isuzu dealerships in both Northam and Merriden. It was a great opportunity with the business tripling in size overnight. There have been some tough times. I suppose there always will be when you are running a business and being a wife and mother at the same time.

Being named as the 2019 WA Telstra Business Woman of the year in March, was a huge and unexpected accomplishment as I was one of 8500 very impressive nominees. To be honest I didn't think I had a chance of winning but I did, and travelling to Sydney for the nationals was brilliant as I met some amazing women. As third generation farmers, farming is still our core business. My husband knows Northam, he knows the land and knows what works. We are very lucky to be farming in Northam.

Right now I am Vice President of the Northam Chamber of Commerce and Vice President of Northam Women in Business. This is important to me in my current business role, but also as a member of the community who is passionate about Northam.

My biggest influence in my life would be my parents who taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance. Also my children - they teach me something new everyday and remind me what is important. My husband and children are my biggest support.

If I could offer advice to a young version of me just starting out in the world it would be to slow down and not always be so serious. Take your time to smell the roses and don't sweat the small stuff.

Human - Leonie Knipe

Interviewers - Anna Cornish & Tom Gratis-Roh

Photographer - Tom Gratis-Roh